The 1940’s was littered with death and war – of which South America was not immune to. Despite America’s promised protection of the South American countries through the Monroe Doctrine, Fascist and Communist influence still seeped it’s way into the jungles and mountains of the isolated corner of the world. Falangism and Hispanidad began it’s career in South America and infected Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela, and of course, Colombia. The tensions on conflicting Communist and Fascist forces met a flash point when Jorge Elicer Gaitan was assassinated forcing the leading Conservative and Liberal party to join forces and issued a “Declaration of Sitges” and formed what they called a “National Front”. Out of the ashes of the anti-government and anti-fascist regimes which have claimed over 200,000 peasant lives in Colombia in what is now known as La Violencia, the “FARC” is born.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army was formed in 1964 and was backed by Cuba, the Soviet Union, and the Irish Republican Army among other Communist allies. Utilizing their jungle homeland, the FARC was primarily a guerrilla movement, but has also been involved with kidnapping and drug trading to fund their movement. Just like any typical Communist movement, FARC fought against the aggression and capitalistic expansions of the Colombian government. The largest advancement of the FARC was in the 1980’s when they changed their strategy to more militaristic and rural combat. With money from a coca boom, FARC began sending troops to the Soviet Union and Vietnam to receive more advanced training. Since these rural attacks, peace talks continued throughout the 80’s and 90’s with little success. Lack of communication made cease-fires impossible.
Fighting picked up and tensions rose even more in the 90’s and 2000’s when both sides began to become even more coordinated and brutal. Former president Alvaro Uribe made huge attacks against the group and FARC in return, increased it’s attacks on civilian centers. The Colombian citizens could not stand the group anymore and produced several anti-FARC rallies and pressured the government to end the conflict. Finally, in 2008, FARC leaders began dying and even Hugo Chavez called the group to stand down – but to no avail.
It wasn’t until earlier this week that President Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londono actually came close to a peace treaty. Signed with a pen made from recycled bullets, the two leaders struck a deal that would end the 50 year war and give FARC more of a say in the Colombian government, and although the President was completely on board with the deal, the Colombian people were not. Due to the generation long struggle with murder, crime, and extortion, the referendum vote for the peace deal failed – by just .23%! A total of 50.22% of voters did not agree to give FARC a say in the government even if it means peace. Unlike President Santos, the barbaric murder and kidnappings are still in the minds of the victims – and they have chosen not to accept FARC’s crimes to become a ticket to power.
Luckily, the cease fire will stay in place and peace talks will resume in Havana, Cuba – but we have seen an honorable display of integrity and a responsible democratic vote in the heat of a war torn country. Both sides want peace – but not at the expense of a generation of murder, kidnapping, and crime.